Assessor: Tower Value Not too Low

While its 2012 appraisal of $183,072 may appear low compared to those for some downtown structures, the Absure Tower’s value is right where it should be, according to the Ohio County Assessor’s office.

Appraiser Jeff Prettyman said the 25,500-square-foot building, located at 1201 Main St., is due to be appraised again for the 2014 tax year. Prettyman described the building as not being in the best of shape, noting four of its 10 floors are unfinished. In the assessor’s computer records, Absure is marked by the assessor’s office as being a building with unfinished construction, which means it must be visited annually, Prettyman said.

The building currently is for sale on the real estate market. The asking price is listed at $450,000 with Paull Associates.

”There are certain buildings in downtown Wheeling that are not up to standards. There are quite a few dilapidated buildings, and I believe that’s why the city tore a bunch of those down,” Assessor Kathie Hoffman said of structures in 1100 block of Main and Market streets. ”And we all know there is still a lot more to do. But we go and look at these buildings at least every three years or by request of the owner.”

Prettyman said all appraisals conducted in the county are derived via a computer system provided by the West Virginia Tax Department. And to check that number, if necessary, that value is compared to other structures’ values. He noted since there is no building just like Absure Tower, various, similar floors in certain buildings were used for comparison.

Examples of downtown buildings, plus their land, used for comparison and their latest values include: WesBanco ($7,168,500); the Mull Center ($1,317,900); and the Central Union Building ($2,700,800). Other downtown buildings and their 2012 total values include the Laconia ($496,140) and the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel ($1,225,680) buildings.

And while the Absure was last sold in 1999 for $288,553, Hoffman said that sale was too old to use for a comparable price. The maximum time a previous sale can be used is three years or less, as valuation cycles occur every three years.

”Our houses, our buildings are worth a lot of money to us when we go to sell them. But when they’re taxable and they’re appraised, they’re dumps and shouldn’t be appraised for very much,” Hoffman said, referring to many property owners’ thinking. ”I have no control over the real estate market, and of course people try to (sell) everything as high as they can.”

Hoffman noted the computerized mass assessment system, provided by the state for a fee, is used first before structures are compared.

”We can plug in our numbers: how many floors, the condition of the building, the grade of the building, what it was like when it was originally built, the year it was built, whether it’s concrete or brick. We can plug all of those into our system and it will generate a value for us. And we have a process we go down. There’s a percentage off for unusable space or how many elevators are in the building. … It all comes off. Basically, it almost does our job for us. We still have to put our feelings in and our opinion in it. But our system really does most of our work for us,” Hoffman said.

Prettyman said as a backup of sorts, other buildings’ floors are compared to make sure the computer is being fair.

”It’s based on other properties and you subtract for the negative conditions,” Prettyman said, noting the Absure Tower building is in less than desirable shape.

He also noted by state law, assessors must add a percentage to all properties known as the county modifier. This percentage is based on the current cost of construction-related materials such as wood, and can change from year to year.

Hoffman and Prettyman both said they do not know who the actual owner of the building is, only that it is owned by Absure Tower Inc. Hoffman noted it had been owned by Wheeling resident David Sims – a former county commissioner and now a circuit judge – but she does not know if he owns it now. Sims ended his law practice after being appointed judge.

” … I don’t want to know. It doesn’t matter who the building belongs to,” Prettyman said, noting he usually talks to the building manager or head of maintenance to gain access to a commercial building during appraisals.

Sims confirmed he still owns the building via his corporation, Absure Tower Inc. He declined to comment about the property’s valuation, noting he is trying to sell the building.